How to Develop a Video Game
Video game development is a multistep process that requires organization, imagination, research, and attention to detail. Whether you’re a designer with a major game studio or using Unity to create your first game, every game maker follows these stages of development:
- Pick a concept. Generate a few game concepts to see what kind of game you want to make. If this is your first time making a game, start small. Explore different genres and subgenres, see what is currently popular in media (or what used to be), then write down any video game ideas that come to mind. After the initial brainstorm is complete, think about the potential features or mechanics of the games on your list. Whittle down the ideas until you find one that you think has the best potential. Learn how to develop video game concepts in our complete guide here.
- Gather information. Game creation involves extensive research. Research the type of game you are building and create a game design document (GDD), even if it is a simple game. The GDD is a brief for the entire project and outlines all the major details like game mechanics, genre, worldbuilding, story, and marketing strategy. Your GDD should answer any questions a potential audience might have about the game, from high-level concept down to the minutiae of aesthetic choices in visual and audio design. As the game designer, you’ll need to decide which game programming language you will use, how big your development team will need to be, and the various resources you will need.
- Start building. Now that you have done your research, you can begin to develop the framework of your game. You’ll need to select the best programming language and game engine for your concept. For small mobile games, you will not need the same advanced technology required for more hardware-dependent games. During this stage of development, you can also begin scripting code for your game. (Game developers with a sizable budget often hire a team of programmers to script code to save time.)
- Refine your concept. Prototypes can help you find discrepancies and other issues early on in the design process. Resolving these issues as they arise is important because they can negatively impact the user experience. Make sure your game has all of the necessary facets—the setting, the quests, the level design, the characters, and sound effects. If you are building a role-playing game (RPG), make sure you can track the logic of the storyline and that the character motivations make sense. If you are creating a platformer or an adventure game, make sure your world is immersive and explorable.
- Test your game. Whether you do the testing yourself or outsource the task to quality assurance (QA) testers, every game must be tested thoroughly before it is released. QA testers test gameplay from a technical standpoint. The QA team will play through a title multiple times, writing up detailed bug reports, and taking note of any crashes. This is a lengthy but necessary process, as gamers are less likely to play a title riddled with glitches or errors, even if it’s free.
- Market the finished product. Toward the end of your game’s development process, you should begin marketing it on as many relevant platforms as possible. Create a website for the game and use social media to advertise it. Include a playable demo on the site that gets players excited for the full game. When the game is ready for release, offer discounted copies or a free version, upload it to game or app stores—try to get it into as many peoples’ hands as possible.
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